How to Opt in to Contact Tracing on Android

Learn to opt-in to this valuable health tool

In a bid to stop the global COVID-19 pandemic, there's the need for many of us to use a contact tracing app so that it's possible to trace who's been in contact with those infected with the virus. To do so, you need to opt-in to contact tracing on your cellphone. 

At the time of writing, contact tracing can only be enabled on your Android if you have downloaded a compatible contact tracing app to your device. Only a handful of states currently have contact tracing apps available.

Mobile contact tracing is considered an incredibly valuable part of the effort in the fight against COVID-19 and other contagious diseases, but you might also want to know how to opt-out of the process at a later date. Here's how to opt in to smartphone contact tracing on Android, as well as how to opt out of it. 

This information focuses on cellphone contact tracing within the US but most of the information is relevant for other countries that are also adopting contact tracing apps. 

Preparing Your Phone for Contact Tracing

Because of how Android phones and Bluetooth work, you need to have your Android phone up to date with the latest patch from Google. That's because the process uses Bluetooth contact tracing methods which require an update to work across all smartphones. Your Android phone needs to be running Android 6.0 or above to be able to activate cellphone contact tracing. That should cover the majority of Android smartphones from the last four or five years. 

It's also necessary to install a health tracking app that works as part of the contact tracing process. In the US, the decision to use exposure notifications is made by each state's public health authority. That means different states have different apps and some are choosing to not offer such a service. It's important to install the right app for your state. 

In other countries such as the UK, one app applies to the whole locale.

How to Opt in to Contact Tracing on Android

In the US, you have to opt in to be part of any COVID-19 based smartphone contact tracing. The rules are similar in other countries such as the UK, so it's important to know how to opt in to the service on your Android phone. Google refers to it as COVID-19 Exposure Notifications but it's the same thing as contact tracing. Here's what to do to activate contact tracing. 

To opt in to Exposure Notifications/COVID-19 contact tracing, you need to install the latest Android update as well as have a related health tracking app installed.

  1. On your Android phone, tap Apps.

  2. Tap Settings.

  3. Scroll down and tap Google.

  4. Tap COVID-19 Exposure Notifications to toggle it on and opt-in.

    Steps for how to enable COVID-19 Exposure Notifications on an Android phone

If there's no toggle, that means it either isn't available in your region yet or you don't have a relevant compatible health tracking app installed. 

How to Opt out of Contact Tracing on Android 

In the US, you have to choose to opt into the contact tracing app program so that your data is shared anonymously with others. Many other countries have also adopted the same way of thinking when it comes to privacy concerns. However, if you've chosen to opt in then changed your mind at a later date, how do you opt-out? Here's how to opt-out of cellphone contact tracing within a few quick steps.

  1. On your Android phone, tap Apps.

  2. Tap Settings.

  3. Scroll down and tap Google.

  4. Tap COVID-19 Exposure Notifications.

  5. Tap Turn off Exposure Notifications

    If this setting isn't available to you, that's because you no longer have a relevant health tracking app installed, and the phone has automatically stopped sending and receiving notifications.

  6. You will now no longer share your exposure information with others. 

How to Delete Exposure Logs

When you have a contact tracing app installed, your phone also creates a series of logs that include the various times your information has been anonymously shared and checked by others, as well as times when it was shared. If you don't feel comfortable keeping this, it's possible to delete the logs without opting out of the contact tracing initiative. Here's what to do.

  1. On your Android phone, tap Apps.

  2. Tap Settings.

  3. Scroll down and tap Google.

  4. Tap COVID-19 Exposure Notifications.

    If this setting isn't available to you, that's because you don't have a relevant health tracking app installed. 

  5. Tap Delete random IDs.

    You can also click Exposure Checks to see all the records of random IDs that you've previously come into contact with over the past two weeks.

  6. You've successfully removed your exposure log from the past 14 days.